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February 02, 2010

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Alex McDonald

Hey Chuck, since when did you start smoking cigars?

Seriously, the pressure must be on to do something. Since the SSD on V-max thru gateway CIFS debacle^W benchmark, it's not even apparent that a workaday NAS solution from EMC can crawl north of 45% storage efficiencies. I mean, you were the one bragging about the CLARiiON's 70%+ usable and knocking everyone else about their figures not so long ago. Yet when challenged with a guarantee from NetApp, you cry foul.

NetApp, 3Par, now HDS; and all you've got is medical analogies. "Patients" that you want to cure.

We don't. NetApp have customers and prospects that want us to put our money where our mouth is, and deliver efficient and effective storage solutions -- guaranteed.

Chuck Hollis

(everyone, Alex McDonald is a competitive analyst from NetApp, and -- as you can tell -- he's a bit worked up)

Interesting perspective, Alex. I think that's what makes our industry so vibrant -- different approaches to the same problem.

Best regards!

-- Chuck

marc farley

Hi Chuck, Shenanigans - in sales and marketing? Really? Certainly never from EMC!

Chuck Hollis

Marc -- we all aspire to be better than we've been in the past, or should try anyway ...

Mike Riley

First, where does the VMware guarantee fit in your analogies? Just trying to keep these straight.

What I'm trying to figure out is what do you have against a guarantee? It's just a bet. Have you ever made a bet? (Not that I'm encouraging wagering. This is just a demonstration.) Why would you make a bet? What if you lose your bet? Do you pay up or say that you don't believe in wagering in the first place?

We're not talking heart surgery here. For the most part, this boils down to a simple math problem. Either you can solve it or you can't and, as I've said on any number of occasions, do you really think 3Par, HDS, NetApp, and VMware went into these guarantees thinking there was a chance they would actually lose? Still, if we did, we would pay up so what's the downside risk for the consumer? To be fair, use VMware as an example during your reply. We already know you don't have a preference for 3PAR, NetApp, or HDS.

And before you go off on some tangent about wagering with someone else's money or risking data loss - stop yourself. Not part of any guarantee I've seen from 3Par, HDS, NetApp, VMware or anyone else for that matter.

You're either in or your out and if you're out, that's fine. But, I'm not sure how often you'll get invited to the table if you keep folding and then start running down the people that have anteed up. I'm not sure name calling works well as a marketing strategy.

Chuck Hollis

(full disclosure, everyone -- Mike is from NetApp as well, and -- like Alex -- he's pretty cranked up as you can see here).

Mike, there's so much that's just fundamentally wrong with your logic, I don't know if I really want to start to get into it.

You seem to want to reduce a valuable partnership between client and vendor to a simple casino game of odds and outcomes. And, of course, the vendor (house) wants to set the odds in their favor.

Mike, I think your statements are a poignant reflection on much that's wrong in our industry. I feel sorry for you and your hyper-competitive brethren.

-- Chuck

Mike Richardson

Chuck,

I regularly read your blog and I always find it entertaining. I’m a NetApp Consultant. Interesting parallels you draw. I’ve seen your solutions and, you are right, it does take a brain surgeon to be able to understand the complexity. I think that is why NetApp has been so successful. Customers don’t want to have to bring in a team of neurologists to build a storage and data protection solution. NetApp offers simplicity and a great efficiency story. This can seem hard to believe, especially when their past experience has only been on your gear. The guarantee helps them get beyond that. It lets them know we mean what we say and will stand behind our claims.

I think you stretch the analogy a bit too far though. Let’s be honest, we all want to make money—and so—all vendors’ motives are a bit closer to a used car salesman than a doctor. That being said, neither of us wants to screw over our customers. We want to make the most money while providing the greatest value. Customers will pay more for greater value. I think we can agree there.

This is where I think NetApp has an advantage. Our product line is extremely unified in terms of the amount of value we can provide with the same equipment. Because your product line is so diverse, there are a lot of inter-competing technologies. It seems to me like it would be very difficult for you to sell your customers the right solution without compromising the sales of some of your product line. Likewise, I’ve often wondered if your stance of “snaps aren’t backups” is because you truly lack confidence in snapshots, or by positioning snapshots as an alternative to backups you would nullify the usefulness of 3-4 other backup products in your portfolio.

-Mike

InsaneGeek

I'm a customer (of both EMC & NetApp) not a vendor... and as I posted on Evan's blog. I want the marketing guarantees to go away you are not solving any of my problems, in fact your carnival barker "guarantees" get in my way of having an actual good conversation with my business units.

Rather than having a conversation about features and implementation methods that apply to my business needs... it's about a guarantee. Having a guarantee is not the problem but having a *useless* guarantee is. Who doesn't do non-mirrored protection, who doesn't do thin provisioning, who isn't using SATA drives? These guarantees are not unique to your architecture so in my view it’s pretty much an empty guarantee and if a vendor is getting into my environment by selling some executive a useless empty guarantee we've started on the wrong foot from square one.

It's basically like telling me I should buy your car because you have a sign on your building that every car is guaranteed to come have four wheels... you know that BMW dealer down the street he doesn't put a guarantee on his sign... think about that why don't you. You do want four wheels right? If you'd never seen a car before and have no understanding of things (as the business often is) you'd probably think that's a heck of a guarantee; but the guy who's seen a car before would be heading for the door post haste.

I hope you guys selling those guarantees really think about this... I know you really, really want to sell me your goods and in the ends the gimmick that will probably a number of units based on it to the uninitiated, but are you really sure that's how you want to start that relationship with me in IT?

Dove

Despite of nice white clothes and serious look doctors have nowadays even less trust than used cars salesmen. But risk is higher.
Not very good example.

Paul P

"reflection on much that's wrong in our industry"
This reflects badly on your competitors but not on VMware - is the case you are making?

Maybe my interpretation is incorrect. What I see in VMware's offering is, essentially do more with less, a whole bunch of conditions and a penalty (after fulfulling the conditions) to the vendor if they fail to meet the guarantee.

Voila, the same way I read the NetApp offering. Really taking off, isn't it? Congrats to NetApp for leading the way rather than being a follower.

Alex McDonald

It's your blog, and you run it as you see fit, but your current "full disclosure" policy of picking out just NetApp posters is looking a bit lopsided. Marc Farley works for 3Par. He might be cranked up too, who knows.

The core of your problem is this, right at the top of your piece; "If a vendor is promising an outcome of "X", they should do whatever it takes to deliver on that promise."

Where's the commitment in a promise? Promises are what you make to acquaintances. Binding contracts are what you make with friends.

(Full disclosure, to save you the bother; I work for NetApp.)

Chuck Hollis

First, I find it interesting that the NetApp crowd has turned out in force for this post. I never mentioned them in the post, and I wasn't particularly thinking of them at the time.

Mike Richardson (above) uses his position as a "NetApp Consultant" to make the usual breathless pitch for his company's product superiority. Mike, with all due respect, based on your comments here I'd consider you more of a contractor, and less of a consultant.

I think there are various litmus tests in this discussion that you're starting to see emerge.

For example, "local snaps aren't backups" is a position based on the hard reality that -- yes -- occasionally array hardware can fail, array software can fail, and humans touching both can fail as well.

That's a key difference between a doctor (consultant) and a used car salesperson (contractor).

-- Chuck

Chuck Hollis

InsaneGeek -- thank you so much for sharing that all-important customer perspective.

NetApp, 3Par, HDS et. al. -- are you listening?

-- Chuck

Chuck Hollis

Paul P -- don't know who you are -- vendor, customer, independent, etc. So much of what gets said here on this blog depends on your position in the industry, so why not be a helpful person and share your affiliation?

There's nothing wrong with vendors guaranteeing their work and outcomes. EMC and others do it all the time. And there's nothing wrong with promising to deliver big savings through a variety of techniques.

What's wrong is a gimmicky guarantee that does neither, and cheapens the discussion. Go see what one of your customers has to say about this elsewhere in this comment stream.

Because, after all, isn't this about the CUSTOMER and not about the VENDOR?

-- Chuck

Chuck Hollis

Alex

Funny you should say that. The cultural ethic at EMC is a promise is a promise -- we take them *extremely* seriously.

But this is a big world with many vendor styles, so we often express our promises in the form of a binding contract.

The intent is the same -- be held accountable for outcomes. And that's what *every* vendor should aspire to do.

-- Chuck

Alex McDonald

@InsaneGeek;

Yes, we're listening.

When I'm buying a car (infrequently, thank goodness) I am interested in the warranties and guarantees; it's a seller's mark of confidence in his product.

Because it's more than about getting four wheels, as in your question "Who doesn't do non-mirrored protection, who doesn't do thin provisioning, who isn't using SATA drives?" The guarantee elevates the conversation above tyre kicking, to enable a discussion about storage efficencies, performance, virtualization, and a whole host of other technologies that provide tangible business benefits and manage cost.

Like deduplication on primary storage for any workload that reduces capacity and improves performance; who does that? Or unified storage to give you the choice to run VMware over FC, iSCSI or NFS, and to do any and all together; who does that? Or caching solutions that don't require a mountain of ancilliary software and overheads on the back end to shovel data around, and that can make SATA go as fast as FC disks; who does that?

At the end of the day, the guarantee from NetApp exposes all these technologies to a test; we're confident we can do what we say, and we're confident that you'll gain the benefits. That's where we want to start, not end, the conversation. A guarantee is more than a promise; who does that?

(Full disclosure; I work for NetApp, and I'm listening.)

Chuck Hollis

Alex -- I think you're entirely missing the point of this debate. I don't know whether that's intentional on your part, though.

1) I think everyone agrees that current storage technology (from a variety of vendors) is capable of delivering substantial benefits as compared to just a few years ago. This characteristic is more reflective on the evolution of storage arrays, and can't really be claimed by any one vendor: EMC, NetApp, etc. Nice try, though.

2) I think that everyone agrees that vendors should understand their customers' requirements, describe what they can do, and stand behind their commitments. Call that a contract, guarantee, promise, whatever. This too is not unique to EMC, NetApp or anyone else for that matter. Nice try, though.

3) Where I think there is disagreement is how the conversation is started. Do you put a meaningless "guarantee" out there that's riddled with caveats and exceptions? Or do you respect the client's intelligence and have a meaningful discussion about current situation, requirements and alternatives?

Now, if people tend to have a generic lack of confidence in a vendor or their offerings, it's Marketing 101 to promote an "ironclad guarantee" as part of the pitch. In the US, you'll see that during late night cable advertising, for example.

Not to pour too much salt into the wound, but your continued insistence on this form of "guarantee" says a lot about how people perceive your company and their products, and the need to create additional assurances.

IT is important stuff. Storage and information is important stuff. I'd have a tough time going to a doctor who heavily promoted their "guarantee" (including the several pages of exceptions, caveats, disclaimers, etc.)

I think people will have a problem with a storage vendor who insists on doing the same. And it's becoming clear where your company lands in this debate.

-- Chuck

Alex McDonald

Chuck

I don't think I'm missing the point, because you keep making it.

You have a poor opinion of guarantees, right?

That's fine; you're entitled to your opinion. What having a guarantee wouldn't stop you doing -- and it certainly doesn't stop us -- is the rest of the process. Talking to customers. Understanding their needs. Proposing solutions that they can afford and that are fit for purpose. Making promises we will keep. We all do that, as you note. But those things are a given. The guarantee is *optionally* and *additionally* there for those that want it.

Even VMware has a guarantee. So do people have a problem with VMware insisting on doing the same? Do you wish to spell out clearly where you believe VMware has landed in this debate?

Chuck Hollis

Alex --

What strikes me is the inconsistency of your approach.

In one comment, you seem to be defending the promotional guarantee gimmick. And in a subsequent comment, you seem to be arguing for a more consultative approach.

Any customer should be able to get assurances from their vendors regarding outcomes and results. That's as it should be.

I'm not aware of VMware's offerings in this space. Nor Microsoft's, Oracle's, IBM's, Red Hat's et. al.

I'd invite them to comment on their own behalf as they wish.

-- Chuck

marc farley

Chuck, Now look, the discussion of the guarantees and their positioning - pro and con - has become a side show - with enough text written to equal and exceed the terms and conditions of the guarantee. If you have the time to read all the comments here and follow the marketing logic, you have enough time to investigate the details of a guarantee.

Dove's comment about doctors was funny, but also rings true to some degree - although I'd say the results you get from your doctor these days probably has more to do with your insurance provider and their policies. But then again, there are certainly instances of doctors underperforming, such as Michael Jackson's physician.

Chuck, are you making Insanegeek into Joe the Plumber? If not, maybe you should sponsor a poll of your customers to weigh in here. If it wasn't obvious to readers, every customer that buys from EMC with a competitive guarantee in hand helps them negotiate a lower price. THAT wouldn't be your motivation, would it?

Insanegeek, we are not guaranteeing a car with 4 wheels, we are guaranteeing a car that delivers double your mileage without significantly changing the way you drive - if at all. We require you to run RAID 5 or 6. You don't have to be running RAID 1 now. We back it with a real contract. The contract is not a gimmick.

Alex McDonald

You're not aware of VMware's offerings? So you're not the author of this?

"I don't particularly agree or approve of VMware's latest program, but my opinions don't really matter, as you know VMware operates as an independent company.

"What I got out of the offer was perhaps a bit different than what you saw -- I saw the acknowledgement that getting the full value out of virtualization wasn't just as easy as slapping in a hypervisor on legacy servers. That part was good, IMHO."

http://blogs.netapp.com/shadeofblue/2009/04/chuck-hollis-to-resign.html

I don't know where you see me being inconsistent in all this; I think I've been very clear. I support both a consultative approach and the additional guarantee. The rest is down to your issues with being out-marketed, I suspect.

Chuck Hollis

Hi Marc -- glad you could join the sideshow here :-)

First, we all know that analogies are just that -- analogies. They have inherent limits.

As far as having customers weigh in, I am absolutely in favor of that. Way too much vendor spew here, for my tastes.

The question needs to be framed correctly, though:

"Should storage vendors lead with marketing-driven standardized 'guarantees' of expected results without knowing the specifics of individual customer requirements?"

And, based on some of the examples out there, I'm having a tough time with the word "guarantee".

Thoughts?

-- Chuck

Chuck Hollis

Hi Alex

The problem I see is leading with the "guarantee" (I use the term very loosely, as others are doing) without the consultation.

Consultation first, guarantee (or other form of assurances) second.

Now, go back to work please ...

--- Chuck

Chuck Hollis

Dear All

I'm shutting down vendor comments on this thread. We've heard from NetApp and 3Par already, thank you.

I would still like to hear from customers and partners, though.

-- Chuck

Chuck Hollis

A funny thing happened to me today. Make of it what you will.

I had to go see an endodontist for a root canal today. I tend to put off going to the dentist, and it occasionally catches up with me.

I hadn't had a root canal done in many years, and this guy had some serious tech.

A digital x-ray system with dynamic image enhancement. A variety of micro-lasers to burn and cauterize. And, to top it all off, a behemoth of a microscope-enabled, robotic-assisted drilling rig for my tooth.

Things had changed.

The guy was obvious skilled and knew how to use his equipment effectively. Halfway through the procedure, he said he'd found a nasty crack in my tooth, and that would considerably lower the chances of a long-term successful outcome.

He could finish the procedure, but there was no guarantee that I'd be entirely happy with the result. I told him to go ahead. I appreciated the fact that he took the time to check out my situation and inform me of my choices.

And now the left half of my face is numb, and I have to go to a meeting soon. More fun.

Food for thought, eh?

Derek Gascon

Chuck,

Sorry to hear that you shut down vendor comments, but I thought I'd post a comment anyway. I work for a vendor in the storage market, but I was also on the other side of the table as a customer in IT for a number of years. Currently I'm working at a small start-up (Caringo) and have also worked at the likes of HDS & STK (pre Sun acquisition). I personally enjoy the battles that rage here between the big vendors and this thread does not disappoint.

Your premise seems very straight forward to me as I tend to still look at the world from the customer perspective. In my opinion the best tact for a vendor to take is to become a trusted partner to its customer. This is very much a solutions approach rather than a "box" approach, i.e. selling product. To be competitive ALL products at some point will come into parity in terms of the features and guarantees they offer. Simple market dynamics. Is Big Vendor X going to lose out to Big Vendor Y because it hasn't promoted a guarantee? No. Big Vendor X will match the guarantee and voila it's product vs. product again.

Where differentiation occurs and value is added is where the vendor takes a consultative approach to design and deliver a solution that aligns with the customer's business needs. Sometimes all the customer wants is to buy more product (say add capacity) and at another they're looking to implement something that is of strategic/tactical benefit to the business. The vendor should be working to develop a long-term relationship with the customer where they demonstrate their capability to enhance operations and "business" success. If that is accomplished then the customer will continue to seek their consultation and build a lasting relationship. Because in the end we're all part of an ecosystem (vendors, customers) that should work together for mutual benefit. When I was making IT buying decisions there were vendors I developed long-term relations with because they worked with me like a partner, and I also had vendors that were just "parts suppliers."

--Derek Gascon

David Rayner

I am a partner in a small but rapidly growing integration firm. We have the luxury of scanning the technology marketplace looking for the optmial solutions for our clients. I have also run large sales regions for technology manufacturers for almost 20 years. It has been and remains my view that caveated guarantees are a short cut for the heavy lifting of finding the unique intersection of my clients needs and my solution capabilities. If I do this well in my discovery, design, and deployment process, a vendor guarantee is no more than a tawdry distraction.

I rather hope that our discussions with our clients are well above selling of a guarantee, while noting its limiting caveats. If we are selling a vendor guarantee, we are having the wrong conversation.

Thanks for a lively and interesting discussion.

Chuck Hollis

David -- well put!

Thanks for sharing with all of us ...

-- Chuck

Roy

Derek,
I am a solution architect for a large outsourcing provider; and the approach you describe is exactly that which EMC have now adopted. This new approach; is not only benefiting the way in which we can deliver solutions; but it is providing a far more cost effective approach for the clients.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Chuck Hollis


  • Chuck Hollis
    Chief Strategist, VMware SAS BU
    @chuckhollis

    Chuck has recently joined VMware in a new role, and is quite enthused!

    Previously, he was with EMC for 18 years, most of them great.

    He enjoys speaking to customer and industry audiences about a variety of technology topics, and -- of course -- enjoys blogging.

    Chuck lives in Holliston, MA with his wife, three kids and four dogs when he's not travelling. In his spare time, Chuck is working on his second career as an aging rock musician.

    Warning: do not buy him a drink when there is a piano nearby.
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